Step 1 Letter to Salt Lake City Ground Transportation Manager – Larry Bowers

From: Lee Anne Walker
Date: Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 8:57 PM
Subject: Handi Van Appeal
To: “Bowers, Larry”

111 E. BROADWAY #250, SALT LAKE CITY, UT 84121 (801) 281-8416

December 13, 2010

Larry Bowers
Ground Transportation Manager
Salt Lake City Airport

Dear Mr. Bowers,

Appeal for Exemption

I have two written inspections of the same special transportation vehicle. On November 30, 2010, everything passed except for a right rear brake/turn lens which had a hole in it. We were told to set a 15 minute appointment once it was replaced because the van passed otherwise. We went straight to our body shop, where it was safely parked. The shop determined the part was not available locally, and ordered it shipped from Dodge. As soon as they said it was in and installed, I called for the re-inspection appointment which took another day or so. We did not even pick the van up until the day of the appointment, and only stopped to fill up with $80 worth of gas.

That 15 minute appointment on the 8th of December, took 2 hours. There was talk of years and miles. The first thing on the written list of comments was: “mileage as of 12/8/2010 = 369,731” so we are 19,000 miles over the new 350,000 mile limit. That did not happen in a week parked at the body shop. Neither did a whole lot of the other things that also got cited. They are not about safety and serviceability. They are about appearance. Obviously the older and high mileage vehicles are being inspected with a different standard than other vehicles. My understanding is that you have the power to waive this.

I heard that there was going to be two years to get in compliance on the years. But no grace period on the miles? And grace periods are meaningless if the inspection is so scrupulous that no older or high mileage vehicle can pass. The whole van suddenly needs to be stripped and repainted and interior vinyl replaced? That the computer chip was removed makes me think there is no intention to ever pass it no matter what we do. I am afraid of spending several thousand dollars only to be presented with another to-do list. The van ended up right back at the body shop that day but I am stumped as to what to do.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1992, and phased into full effect by 2002. Everything in use at the time was grandfathered in, but all vehicles had to fully comply by 2002. (By then the pre-90’s vans were used up and off the road.) The regulations were written in the ‘90’s, and they are based on 90’s vans which were the best at the time and now squarely fit the regulations. The new vans are not as big inside as this big blue Dodge. The government has never required the auto companies who build vans to make an ADA model despite all the tax money they have gotten. So replacing this van with a new one costs over $40,000 because it requires a $10,000 aftermarket conversion to raise the roof and extend the doors. And you still don’t have as much space inside, as room enough behind the back bench seat to stash a courtesy wheelchair.

ADA vans are built on truck chassis, and they are rated for higher miles and longer use than taxi sedans which are typically taxis. This vehicle is mechanically sound and ideal for the work. Some people in wheelchairs drive into, back into, side swipe the interior walls all the time. Vans are close quarters for a wheelchair, and people who cannot walk can have other disabilities affecting all the skills involved in driving a wheelchair. I am in a wheelchair myself, and as a business owner who has never faulted anyone for doing it, it is a truth I can tell. Sometimes you can hit the wall.

This van is special in that it has a big, steel, fold-down ramp operated by the driver. The power lifts are built to the ADA legal minimums, which like child support, become the maximums. They have weight limitations of 500 and 800 pounds. But a power wheelchair can weigh over 400 pounds, and people with disabilities who cannot exercise often gain weight. There are wheelchairs with bigger wheelbases than the size of the lift platforms. And the power lifts are anchored to posts on the floor of the vehicle which prevent very wide wheelchairs from entering the van. So Handi Van Inc. gets referrals from UTA’s Flex Trans and other companies using commercial power lifts. This van can do runs no other transportation provider can. It is a low tech, but safe and effective solution to a real problem.

And have a heart. There is a recession on. We are struggling along with every one else. Even though Handi Van Inc. is a corporation, banks have always insisted someone sign personally. I do not want to further risk my house and load up my credit to buy a new van now. There are so many changes in the economy, and health care benefits, which affect us and our passengers, and unknowns as to how the changes of taxis running wheelchair vans will affect my business. No one even knows who will be in business in Salt Lake in six months. I am 61–too old to start over. I have employees who need me to survive. I have clients who like me live with the peace of knowing my drivers will come on short notice or in the middle of the night.

I feel like I have hit a wall. Don’t put me through a lot of expense and stress over this van. Please pass it for now. Let me drive it until we know where we are going.

Yours truly,

Lee Anne Walker
Handi Van Inc.


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